I always get childishly nostalgic the week before Xmas. Dunno why except that I grew up in the country of Father Christmas – yep – up there in Finland where Santa’s supposed to be living if you believe all these tall tales. We sure did cuz in my childhood Santa came in on Xmas Eve, I mean he came to visit in person. That meant that someone in the neighbourhood – preferably an old man – got dressed up in a Santa suit and made the rounds and picked up presents in each household to give out. A sweaty job dressed in the full gear wearing a mask, a fake beard and in the days when men were leaner stuffing under the suit. Not dropping down from the chimney this Santa; he came in the flesh and scared the daylights out of most of us kids.
And yes, my dad, too, did these rounds at least once that I can recall. He came back home late on the night of the 24th, reeking of whiskey, which my 6-year-old moralist self didn’t know how to deal with at the time since my dad never really drank. All the more rare in the country that is awash with holics, but the stuff was not touched much in our house. Took another couple of years to figure that out – once he had doled out the gifts in the houses he went to, the folks must have insisted he toast the season with a shot on his way out. Had to have been impossible to say no, or maybe it was just what dad needed to get through it all.
Dad’s Santa career was luckily short-lived. Not much of a volunteer my dad on that score; I didn’t blame him and have truly funny memories of witnessing several Santas, some on bikes, some in cars driving in the Xmas night. Santas for Rent – well it was a way to make some money on the one night a year. Not sure if someone took it one step further and set up an agency – kind of a tough business, but capitalism is truly capable of just about anything.
Maybe the melancholy is about the lack of all this excitement that’s missing in the North American pre-Xmas? No Santa suits I know of being pulled out of mothballs, cleaned and prepped for the big one night of the year. No kids suffering from pre-Yule anxiety and sleepless nights trying to figure out what to say or do once the old guy stomped his feet at the threshold and hollered coming in the house. And the adults kept telling stories and fed the fantasies in the short days and long evenings before Xmas, locking up the bedroom door while they got busy in the living room preparing and wrapping gifts. All hush-hush and awash with anticipation. It was all part of the game but what a lovely way to spend the time leading up to the big visit! It’s that magic of waiting I miss. Looking at the starry sky at night and wondering if the angels, too, were as excited as I was waiting for Xmas.
Go visit the Santa land way up in Rovaniemi, Finland.